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Leader of the Labour Party (UK)

Leader of the Labour Party
Harriet Harman (acting)

since 8 May 2015
Inaugural holder Keir Hardie
Formation 17 January 1906
Deputy Rt Hon. Harriet Harman MP

The Leader of the Labour Party is the most senior politician within the Labour Party in the United Kingdom. From 25 September 2010 until 8 May 2015, the office was held by Ed Miliband.

Harriet Harman is the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and also Acting Leader since the resignation of Miliband on 8 May 2015 following the 2015 general election.


The post of Leader of the Labour Party was officially created in 1922. Before this time, between when Labour MPs were first elected in 1906 and the election in 1922, when substantial gains were made, the post was known as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party.[1]

In 1921, John Robert Clynes became the first Leader of the Labour Party to be born in England; prior to this, all Leaders had been born in Scotland. In 1924, Ramsay MacDonald became the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority administration. Clement Attlee would become the first Leader to lead a majority government in 1945. The first to be born in Wales was Neil Kinnock, who was elected in 1983. The most electorally successful Labour Leaders to date are Tony Blair, who won three in 1997, 2001 (both landslide victories), and 2005, and Harold Wilson, who won four general elections out of five contested, in 1964, 1966, February 1974, and October 1974.


Unlike other British political party leaders, the Labour Leader does not have the power to dismiss or appoint their Deputy. Both the Leader and Deputy Leader are elected by an Alternative Vote system in an electoral college, with a third of the votes allocated to the Party's MPs and MEPs, a third to individual members of the Labour Party, and a third to individual members of all affiliated organisations, including socialist societies and trade unions.


When the Labour Party is in Opposition, as it currently is, the Leader of the Labour Party usually acts as the Leader of the Opposition, and chairs the Shadow Cabinet. Concordantly, when the Party is in Government, the Leader would usually become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service, as well as appointing the Cabinet.

List of Leaders of the Labour Party

Leader Portrait Nation of Birth Constituency Took Office Left Office Prime Minister
Arthur Henderson 100px Scotland Barnard Castle 22 January 1908 14 February 1910 Campbell-Bannerman
until April 1908
Asquith 1908–16
George Nicoll Barnes 100px Scotland Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown 14 February 1910 6 February 1911
Ramsay MacDonald 100px Scotland Leicester 6 February 1911 5 August 1914
Arthur Henderson 100px Scotland Barnard Castle 5 August 1914 24 October 1917
Lloyd George 1916–22
William Adamson 100px Scotland West Fife 24 October 1917 14 February 1921
John Robert Clynes 100px England Manchester Platting 14 February 1921 21 November 1922
Law 1922–23
Ramsay MacDonald 100px Scotland Aberavon 21 November 1922 1 September 1931
Baldwin 1923–24
himself 1924
Baldwin 1924–29
himself 1929–31
Arthur Henderson 100px Scotland Burnley 1 September 1931 25 October 1932 MacDonald 1931–35
George Lansbury 100px England Bow and Bromley 25 October 1932 8 October 1935
Clement Attlee 100px England Limehouse 8 October 1935 14 December 1955 Baldwin 1935–37
Chamberlain 1937–40
Churchill 1940–45
himself 1945–51
Churchill 1951–55
Eden 1955–57
Hugh Gaitskell 100px England Leeds South 14 December 1955 18 January 1963
Macmillan 1957–63
George Brown× 100px England Belper 18 January 1963 14 February 1963
Harold Wilson 100px England Huyton 14 February 1963 5 April 1976
Douglas-Home 1963–64
himself 1964–70
Heath 1970–74
himself 1974–76
James Callaghan 100px England Cardiff South East 5 April 1976 10 November 1980 himself 1976–79
Thatcher 1979–90
Michael Foot 100px England Ebbw Vale 10 November 1980 2 October 1983
Neil Kinnock 100px Wales Islwyn 2 October 1983 18 July 1992
Major 1990–97
John Smith Scotland Monklands East 18 July 1992 12 May 1994
Margaret Beckett× 100px England Derby South 12 May 1994 21 July 1994
Tony Blair 100px Scotland Sedgefield 21 July 1994 24 June 2007
himself 1997–2007
Gordon Brown 100px Scotland Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 24 June 2007 11 May 2010 himself
Harriet Harman× 100px England Camberwell and Peckham 11 May 2010 25 September 2010 Cameron 2010–present
Ed Miliband 100px England Doncaster North 25 September 2010 8 May 2015
Harriet Harman× 100px England Camberwell and Peckham 8 May 2015 Incumbent

×Deputy Leaders who assumed the role of party leader temporarily because of the death or resignation of the incumbent, serving until the election of a new leader.[2] George Brown and Margaret Beckett acted as leader following deaths of Hugh Gaitskell and John Smith, respectively. Harriet Harman acted as leader when Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband resigned.


It is not uncommon for a retired Leader of the Labour Party to be granted a peerage upon their retirement, particularly if they served as Prime Minister; examples of this include Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson. However, Neil Kinnock was also elevated to the House of Lords, despite never being Prime Minister, and Michael Foot declined a similar offer.

There are currently four living former Leaders of the Labour Party (with the period they were in office):

See also


  1. Thorpe, Andrew. (2001) A History Of The British Labour Party, Palgrave, ISBN 0-333-92908-X
  2. Labour Party Rule Book 2008 (PDF), The Labour Party, retrieved 12 May 2010, When the party is in opposition and the party leader, for whatever reason, becomes permanently unavailable, the deputy leader shall automatically become party leader on a pro-tem basis.